Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Logo of The Middlebury Campus
Saturday, Dec 2, 2023

Potential Schedule Change Would Hurt, Not Help Athletes

Author: Nina Cotton '04

After reading President John McCardell's proposition for starting the school day later and having sports teams' practices in the mornings before class, I considered what an average fall day would be like for me, a member of the varsity field hockey team. This is what it would look like: Wake up at 5:30 a.m. in order to walk from the A-frames to the athletic facilities and get a quick breakfast before 6:15 a.m.—are the dining halls even open at that hour? Once at the athletic facilities, I would spend approximately 30 to 35 minutes in the training room icing, stretching and taping my knees. Not to mention fighting for a spot on the table in front of all the soccer players, football players, rugby players, runners and volleyball players who would also be in there, and possibly running late due to a missed alarm clock. That would leave me with about 10 minutes to be dressed, stretched and warmed up for a team practice starting at 7 a.m.

Once practice was over around 9 a.m., assuming I had a 9:30 a.m. class, I would have 30 minutes to ice my knees, shower, get 'ready' and eat a substantial breakfast. Finally, I'd be in class. I would probably be exhausted from practice and just want to put my legs up and do some reading for class or watch TV with friends (like I normally do around 6:45 p.m. under the current schedule). The day would go by as a usual weekday does, class-to-class. I would have time for a quick Proctor dinner before a 7:30 p.m. class. I'd arrive back to my room after 9 p.m. without having done any work for the next day yet because the chances I stopped by Bicentennial Hall to work in the possible hour or so breaks I had between classes over taking a nap to compensate for being up at 5:30 a.m. are pretty slim.

So I'd begin my work: over 100 pages of reading, a possible response paper or two and a journal entry. With luck, I'd be in bed by 1:30 a.m. and up again four hours later to run sprints and a gauntlet drill with my teammates, who I would guess had days similar to mine. And come game time, our bodies all would have been thrown off by having 4 p.m. games rather than having to be athletic at 7 a.m.

As a student-athlete with friends both in and out of the world of Middlebury athletics, I understand the desire to make our college seem more like an academic institution rather than one that caters to the talented athletic teams we have here. President McCardell's opinion letter to The Campus proposing these time changes says that the time period between 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. would "open up the late-afternoon/dinner period so that all members of our community have equal access to the activities that take place, or might now take place, during those hours." Yet I think that wanting, trying and achieving varsity status at Middlebury College is a sacrifice I am willing to make, even if it means missing those other activities.

Playing a varsity sport in conjunction with the high level of academics offered here is in and of itself enough preparation for the real world and a glimpse into what President McCardell calls "real world realities" of balancing work and sport. Rather than increasing the amount of time in a day an athlete has to spend on "alternative activities," the proposed schedule change is strictly reducing the energy level and sleep time of athletes. There have been recent studies that show that sleep is very necessary for athletes. An article written by Bruce J. Ketchum, the editor of, notes "most of what we know about sleep deprivation has to do with immune function and brain function. This study is interesting because it shows that sleep deprivation can negatively impact physiology that is critical for athletic performance—glucose metabolism and cortisol status."

Some teammates of mine are dual and tri-varsity and are still members of clubs and intramural teams and have campus jobs. Not to mention they keep their grades up and have social lives that they choose and are happy with. Now I am not speaking for anyone other than myself, as President McCardell asked anyone who responds to not to do, I am speaking from my personal opinion and knowledge of the athletic world at Middlebury College. Having 7 a.m. practices would throw not only my studies off, but my body as well. I would be too tired to perform at peak athletic and academic performance throughout the day having only gotten a maximum five hours of sleep and the fun of practice, which does exist, would be lost to exhaustion. And even more so, the fun of being outside with teammates playing the sport you love and are committed to would be lost in exhaustion.